Richard Kelly remembers working with Dwayne Johnson on his cult sci-fi classic.
It was an interesting decision to follow Donnie Darko with Southland Tales, but that’s exactly what director Richard Kelly did in 2006. The film is sort of a sprawling post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic about a movie star named Boxer Santaros writing a screenplay with the pornstar Krista Now (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar), which announces the end of the world.
The cast was impressive, starring Seann William Scott, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson, Wallace Shaun, Bai Ling, Jon Lovitz, Amy Poehler and Cheri Oteri. Justin Timberlake has also appeared as a drugged soldier who participates in an elaborate and choreographed music video in which he synchronizes with the Killers. All of these things that I did.
Despite its star lineup, Southland Tales brought in just $ 375,000 internationally against a budget of $ 17 million. As well as being a box office disappointment, the critical reception was equally harsh.
Despite not having a finished cut, Kelly chose to make her Cannes debut in 2006. The audiences were ruthless. Famous critic Roger Ebert went so far as to say that the boos were deafening. He even described himself as being offended by what he had just watched.
With a new Blu-Ray Special Edition on the way, Richard Kelly sat down with Entertainment Weekly to talk about the film. He says he’s been working on a prequel storyline and would love to work with The Rock again, but can’t fix that just yet. Additionally, he shared the story of how Johnson was cast in the movie. Here is what he said:
“Well, we were trying to figure out how to play the part of Boxer Santeros, which was a huge challenge. I think we had Seann William Scott and Sarah Michelle Gellar attached to the film but we couldn’t make the film without Boxer Santeros. It was an extremely difficult role to play, as we needed a great star who was ready to play this schizophrenic deconstruction of a collapsing movie star. It took courage and guts on the part of one. big movie star ready to take this step.
When I first met Dwayne, it was just an immediate connection. He was immediately excited and open and just couldn’t wait to take all those risks and immerse himself in this role. It was just this wonderful connection. Sitting across from him – I think it was the very beginning of 2005 when we first met – I was blown away by his charisma. I had seen him in the wrestling ring and seen some of his movies. It was so clear to me that he was on his way to becoming the greatest movie star in the world, that he had that potential, that he had that charisma. Looking at all of his work and watching all of his performances in the pro wrestling ring, I could just tell he had this amazing comedic timing. I just knew he could do an amazing job.
So, we knew we had found Boxer Santeros and we knew there was no other actor who could have done it except him. It was just this wonderful opportunity where he was excited to do something really pissed off and provocative and get out of the wheelhouse so to speak. Many actors have their comfort zone where they feel safe in specific types of roles or genres, making specific types of movies that studios are comfortable putting them in to make money. It was a much bigger sandbox that Dwayne could play in, play this deranged character, so I was so thrilled to have him and the movie wouldn’t have been made without him. Dwayne, Seann, and Sarah, that was the glue that held the whole movie together, and then we could fill the rest of the cast around them. Yeah, it was a real gift to have Dwayne. “
Johnson admitted the movie was a bust on Twitter when he retweeted the LA Times’ The coil Podcast. In 2019, he told IndieWire that the experience “hurt. “
The former WWE Superstar has since grown into one of the biggest movie stars in the world. We can see him next in July when he plays in Disney’s Jungle cruise.